Head of Planning and Corporate Responsibility at British Land
Going Naked – the Power of Collective Intelligence
Following on from British Land ‘Going Naked’ at the Green Corporate Energy Conference 2013, Adrian Penfold responds to questions from Jim Woods, CEO of The Crowd (formerly Green Mondays), which organised the event. This was the first time one of the UK’s leading property development companies had willingly laid bare its energy and carbon strategy to peers and relevant experts.
Why did British Land embrace this ‘crazy’ format?
We wanted to get fresh insights into where our energy and carbon strategy could go – particularly in the context of being close to achieving our 40% energy reduction target from 2009 to 2015. The chance to get feedback from over 100 of our peers and relevant experts was too good to resist. We also hoped that this feedback would help us engage the business more around the carbon agenda. In addition, we believed that opening up to stakeholders on our approach to sustainability and carbon management would further enhance our leadership credentials.
What value did you get from the crowd’s advice?
The results of the Going Naked review were very interesting. Detailed gap analysis showed we were considered particularly strong on carbon and energy reductions, but less so on decentralised energy (renewables) and engagement with retail occupiers. Also, whilst our overall rating was “significantly ahead” of comparable organisations, we received 740 individual ratings and 480 comments on how to develop our strategy further.
What was the response within the organisation?
Understandably, there was some surprise when people saw ‘Going Naked’ appearing in a number of people’s diaries, including the Chief Executive’s – but this all helped raise interest in the session internally.
When the analysis came in, we were particularly impressed by the spirit with which the crowd engaged in this. We were surprised by how responsive people were and their willingness to give us suggestions about how we could improve what we are doing.
We have since held a two-hour workshop with 30 people, reviewing three areas we are focusing on following our Going Naked review:
- Decentralised energy
- Occupier services and engagement
- The Landlord Energy Rating.
How are you using the wisdom of the crowd?
Here are some of the actions we intend to pursue as a result:
- Decentralised energy: Historically, this has been less of a priority for us. Where we had explored renewables, the results had usually come back showing that demand reduction (energy efficiency initiatives) would be more effective at cutting carbon and controlling costs for occupiers – so this was where we’d focused. However, in the light of some of the insights the crowd gave us, we’re now revisiting feasibility studies for local off-grid energy generation, as a means of reducing reliance on grid electricity and minimising the risk of supply security. We were also interested by the crowd’s suggestions regarding innovative supply arrangements for off-grid generation and supply.
- Occupier energy: We’ve had some good results from engagement on energy efficiency with our office occupiers and have seen more interest from retailers. The crowd gave us a number of ideas to pursue. We intend to explore new ways to support energy benchmarking by occupiers, focusing on transparency. The reaction of occupiers will, in part, determine how much we will be able to achieve. If there are any of our occupiers who would like to engage more actively, we would welcome an approach. We’re particularly keen to explore collaboration in our ‘showcase sustainable building’ concept with any interested occupiers.
- Landlord Energy Ratings: We were very heartened by the crowd’s support for Landlord Energy Ratings. This support has reinforced our belief that this is a prize worth working for. We will continue to work with the Better Buildings Partnership and others in the industry to enable the launch of a Landlord Energy Rating (though perhaps with a more inspiring name) and to encourage more use of operational ratings in buildings. We used our follow-up workshop to draw out more ideas on how to bring these ratings to market.
To conclude, Going Naked has been very useful for us. It’s given us some great new insights and we would definitely recommend it to others. Thank you to The Crowd’s team and to all who participated in the analysis and debate.
Find out more about The Crowd: http://www.thecrowd.me/
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